Hundreds gathered this week in Washington, DC, to see Ms. magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem in conversation with Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA). This was the first stop of many on Steinem’s speaking tour for her new book, My Life on the Road.
Throughout the evening, both Steinem and Waters encouraged audience members to call themselves feminists, embrace the label, and take ownership of it. When Waters shared the story of when she was told she couldn’t be a feminist because it was “a white woman’s thing,” Steinem responded, “to me, black women invented feminism disproportionately.” Both were met with marvelous applause.
Much of the conversation that followed centered on organizing and voting. Using a parable—“For want of a nail the horseshoe was lost, for want of a horseshoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the battle was lost”—Steinem wove a narrative about the political consequences of not voting, from Harriett Woods’ U.S. Senate loss in 1982 to the 2000 presidential election, and beyond. In short, she said, every person’s vote always matters: “Due to the absence of just a few votes [in 1982], each of us can count the differences in our lives, our nation, and our world… Voting isn’t the most we can do. It’s the least we can do. Indeed, the voting booth is the one place on earth where the least powerful and the most powerful are equal.”
Throughout the question and answer session toward the end of the event, Steinem and Waters heard from passionate activists working to make a difference locally and nationally. In response to a question about how to encourage women to stand up and #ShoutYourAbortion, Steinem said she could not expect women to do what she herself had not. She then went on to read the moving dedication of My Life on the Road, written to the English doctor who performed her abortion back in 1957.
Asked what she’s most proud of, she replied, “I always say I haven’t done it yet.”
Media Resources: Cosmopolitan 10/30/14; ABC News 10/23/15